Is there a big event coming up soon and you have been saying how you want to “get in shape” for it?
So, you’ve got a date set. You have an outfit in mind (you’ve probably tried it on), and now you’re counting down. Often this countdown is in months. Often it’s in weeks. But one thing that is common is wanting to look the best you possibly can, not for anyone else, but because you want to feel confident, and you have a sneaking suspicion that if you ate a little better and exercised a little more, you would probably feel a bit better, mentally and physically.
There is so much information out there about the “best” way to change your physique, lose body fat, improve your health, flatten your tummy…. The bookshelves groan with cookbooks and celebrity “how I totally did this or that in x amount of time” books.
Why are there so many? Because there isn’t one simple answer. The key lies in identifying what YOUR goals are and finding the best way for YOU to achieve it. What works for one person will not necessarily be right for everyone. Of course, there are going to be some standard approaches to a lifestyle that are going to be beneficial (such as eating your vegetables, drinking enough water…), but losing fat, gaining muscle, finding exercise you love…these are all things that can be different for everyone.
So, this blog is going to try to show you how to by making some small changes you can feel that you are achieving those goals.
So….to achieve a goal, you need a goal. And it needs to be sensible.
Nearly all of my clients tell me their goal is to “lose weight”. I always reply with “If your scales showed a stone more but you had defined muscles and were a dress size smaller, would that be OK?”. The answer, usually, is “yes”. When we say we want to lose weight, we tend to mean that we want to lose fat, to be a bit more “toned”.
So, how is this achieved? In order to lose fat you need to be careful about your energy intake, and you need to make sure that you maintain and increase your muscle mass (see my other blog post about whether to do weights or cardio).
Research has shown that people are not very accurate at reporting the amount of calories that they consume, underestimating by as much as 700 calories per day. The same research showed that people tend to overestimate how much energy they use during exercise sessions (a spin class for me burns around 300 calories).
We need to establish calories in, make sure they are at the right level, establish calories out and make sure that these are being “spent” in the right way to achieve fat loss.
Using tracking apps like “My Fitness Pal” CAN help, as long as you are honest about portion sizes. The default portion size on the app is often way smaller than the portion size you think you are having…
But knowing how many you are eating is really a tiny part of the battle. You need to know how many you NEED to eat in order to lose fat.
It is recommended that you aim for 1-2lb fat loss a week, and this loss is achieved by having 3,500 – 7,000 calories less per week. That seems a big number to lose, but let’s have a little look at how this figure is decided upon.
Everyone’s body uses calories ALL THE TIME. Calories are another word for energy. Breathing uses calories. Thinking uses calories. Eating uses calories. Digesting food uses calories. Your heart beating uses calories. All of this is called your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate). Google has BMR calculators. After you’ve read this, go and find yours out…
This number of calories (mine is 1415 per day) is required to enable your body to function normally. You need to eat at least this many calories, otherwise your body will start to hold onto bodyfat to protect itself and to make sure it has enough energy stored to perform these vital tasks.
But then you need to factor in the moving that you do. Walking to and from the bathroom, school runs, up and down stairs, stirring porridge, walking the dogs, exercise classes. All of these things use EXTRA energy on top of what your day to day life uses.
So we have to take this into account. There is (of course) a set of guidelines to recognise activity levels and their impact on your daily calorie requirements.
If you are mainly sedentary (office worker with little daily exercise), you multiply your BMR by 1.5
If you are moderately active (approximately one hour of exercise every day, such as jogging/exercise class), you multiply by 1.75
If you are vigorously active (2 hours exercise per day minimum, at a level where you cant sing along to music), then you multiply by 2.25.
This new number (BMR x activity level number) gives you the calories you actually use each day. If you eat that many calories you’ll stay the same. If you eat MORE than that you’ll gain fat/weight. If you eat LESS you’ll lose fat/weight.
To LOSE fat/weight you need to eat less than you use. 500 calories per day less will lead to a 1lb per week fat loss (providing you keep your muscle mass up, see my blog cardio or weights?).
Here is my example:
I am 45, weigh 10st 8, and am 5ft 8in tall. I am a group exercise instructor and personal trainer. I do at least 2 classes per day, 7 days per week, and walk on average 11 miles per day whilst training clients, walking dogs etc.
My BMR is 1415 calories. I multiply this by 2.25 as I am vigorously active. I need about 3,100 calories per day to stay the same. To lose fat, I need to reduce my calorie intake to 2,600.
Calculate your calorie needs, calculate (honestly) how much energy you consume (and yes alcohol does count), and see where things could be tweaked.
My next blog will be about HOW to structure your eating to make sure the right things make up the calories you have.
If you would like to know more, then please get in touch.
Tel: 07775 865112